Faculty Research

Faculty Spotlights

Shawn Boyne

Professor of Law

One of the most vexing challenges facing democratic societies today is the fact that law, standing alone, does not adequately guide the exercise of bureaucratic discretion. The common underlying issue in diverse contemporary debates surrounding topics such as the prosecution and subsequent suicide of Aaron Schwartz, racial profiling of criminal suspects or the injustice of harsh sentencing practices all center around the inefficacy of the law to regulate decision-making. Using a comparative perspective, Professor Boyne’s research examines the decision-making practices of German prosecutors and probes the limits of the “principle of legality” which requires prosecutors to bring all cases involving major offenses to trial. She argues that it is not prosecutor’s fidelity to legal principles that, in the end, guides decision-making and limits the use of plea-bargaining. Rather, it is the rich tradition of “objectivity” and the culture of prosecution offices that guides decision-making. Using ethnographic and grounded theory methods, she probes routines of practice and argues that comparative legal scholars must go beyond comparing black-letter law and understand legal culture and routines of practice to understand foreign legal systems. 

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